Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year C


Donald X. Burt, O.S.A.
1929 – 2014

Wis 11:22–12:2
Ps 145:1-2,8-9,10-11,13,14
2 Thess 1:11-2:2
Luke 19:1-10

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. He had about eight days to live. As he was passing through the business community of Jericho he paused for a day to have dinner with a new found friend named Zacchaeus.

It was an unusual event. Zacchaeus was far from a religious zealot. He was in fact the chief tax collector of the area, a man involved in many businesses, and very, very rich. He was not a terribly bad man, only very busy about business. Probably 7/8 of his fortune had been made honestly and that made him almost a saint in that wheeling/dealing town. He never was against God, mind you; he just didn’t have time for him. Thus it was quite strange that he should feel a need to see the God-man Jesus as he passed by.

But he did feel the need. By the grace of God a little crevice opened in his life (normally consumed with earthly business), a crevice that could only be filled by seeing Jesus. But seeing anyone in a crowd was a monstrous problem for Zacchaeus. He was very short, and could never hope to see Jesus over the towering heads of those who crowded the street where Jesus was to pass by. He solved his problem by climbing a tree, one of those ancient sycamores with limbs reaching to the ground, easy to climb even for a short man.

He climbed a tree with no high hopes. He just wanted to see Jesus. He did not expect Jesus to do anything for him. Jesus was a godly prophet; Zacchaeus was an undersized human being adept at only one thing: cutting a deal for a profit. In looking at Jesus Zacchaeus had no expectation of being chosen by God. He only wanted to see what he had been missing.

But the scenario did not work out that way. Jesus looked up into the tree and saw that little man with a tiny gap in his life for the love of God and immediately Jesus flooded him with that love and said to him, “Come down, Zacchaeus! For I must stay with you today!”

Zacchaeus tumbled out of the tree in excitement. Suddenly he was free of the earth. He promised to give away his hard-earned wealth to the poor. He vowed to pay back anyone he cheated four times over. Jesus smiled at his enthusiasm and said: “This day salvation has come to this house.”

We don’t know what happened to Zacchaeus after that. All we know is that eight days before his death Jesus gave eternal life to a little man who opened his life just a little bit to the grace of God.